We are starved–as friends, spouses, children, citizens, and workers–for gratitude. I think it’s safe to say that we live in a gratitude desert. Maybe, in America at least, that’s because we’ve bought into a myth of self-reliance—a kind of stoic independence where we go to work, get stuff done and don’t need a kind word or anyone else’s approval. If we do say, “Thank you,” sometimes it’s because of politeness. It’s the same as holding the door or saying, “Bless you” when someone sneezes.
But real thankfulness, real gratitude, isn’t perfunctory. It’s not about politeness.
The Latin root for the word “gratitude” comes from the same place we get “grace,” which is about receiving something “unmerited.” When we are truly grateful, we are acknowledging that someone has done something above-and-beyond, something we didn’t buy or earn. What servant leaders understand is that everyone, every day, brings something to work that is above-and-beyond. Sometimes that effort is visible and measurable, sometimes it’s quiet and much harder to bring to the surface.
People are Not Machines
It’s hard because people are not machines. We don’t just put “goals” on one end of a work conveyor belt and get “results” out the other end. But isn’t that great!? As leaders, we get to explore and encourage the creativity and expertise, the learning potential and flexibility of the people we work with. We get to be surprised by each other! Which is also a profound aspect of grace… when we acknowledge it. We can’t expect our colleagues to continue to go above-and-beyond, to surprise and delight us with their ideas and efforts, if we don’t do the same in response.
Gratitude is a leader’s best way of consistently acknowledging and encouraging a culture of extraordinary results.
Be a better leader through gratitude
There’s a lot of research and writing out there on the benefits of gratitude. You can read my previous blog post about the “7 Elements of Leadership Gratitude.” That gets into some details about how to make gratitude a more tangible effort in your leadership journey. I also listed 17 benefits of thankfulness and gratitude in this post if you need to “sell” the practice to your team.
But for today, I’d suggest you take just a few minutes and listen to this latest Aim Higher podcast with three people I’m incredibly grateful to have on my team. Drew, Tammi, and Elyse each have great insights into how you can be a better leader through gratitude.
Listen to the episode of Aim Higher here.
The best gift for those you love. Give them the gift of a better future.
Image Credit: Hanny Naibaho